Monday, June 18, 2012

Williamsburg Businesses Want Parking Reform

The Williamsburg business community argued to the city council that they wanted the parking reforms in the zoning code to support redevelopment, but residents objected to the original proposal. From the story:
The zoning and parking changes were first requested by the Economic Development Authority, which sought consistency in regulations in order to facilitate business, according to Mason. Director of Economic Development Michele DeWitt has cited specific instances when zoning or parking regulations prevented the redevelopment of buildings in the district.
The business concern surrounded a furniture store that would not be redeveloped without parking reform:
[Suter’s] has just enough parking to be a furniture store, but not enough for a restaurant or retail store. Singley, whose firm is handling the sale of Suter’s, believed looser restrictions would help prospective buyers secure financing and make the leap into business.
But the residents are concerned about spillover parking:
Residents, including Nancy Canning and Henry Coleman, turned out to the Planning Commission’s May 16 meeting to call for a rejection of the proposal. They felt the process was rushed, and the topic should be discussed in comprehensive planning meetings. In addition, many residents worried that if the city’s goals come true, the Arts District will eventually have a parking problem, with residential streets lined with cars.
This highlights how parking reform is critical for redeveloping existing buildings, even in Williamsburg, Virginia. One smart thing they are doing is that small businesses (less than 5,000 square feet) are not required to supply parking. In most cities in the U.S., I suspect that this change to the zoning code and licensing requirements would be enough to maintain independent businesses and a variety of services. Small store exemptions may be a way to transition away from the heavy burden minimum parking requirements currently entail.
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